The global pandemic has been profoundly disruptive to a wide range of industries and traditional working practices – particularly in industries with substantial physical footprints, including logistics and manufacturing. However, the digital tools and technologies that are driving a new era of mass personalization in manufacturing can also play a crucial role in making companies more resilient to these shocks.
Mass personalization focuses on combining the bespoke, made-to-order nature of traditional small-batch manufacturing with the scale and economic efficiency of mass production. As a technique, it relies on smart manufacturing solutions that allow for more granular approaches to production, including IoT-enabled sensors, 3D printing capabilities, cloud connectivity and the enhanced use of customer data to create personalized digital experiences. All of these technologies, however, also can help businesses better navigate the new normal.
The flexibility of digital data
At the heart of mass personalization is a digital-first approach to design, development and distribution. Smart connected factories utilize IoT technologies to collect a stream of real-time production data that can be shared with multiple stakeholders via a single, cloud-based platform. In the socially distanced pandemic, this allows a company to seamlessly shift to remote working by giving employees instant access to all of their data via a secure cloud connection. Ready access to this data also encourages greater communication and collaboration across the value chain, providing increased visibility into potential disruptions and their likely impact, which enables a quick and well-informed response.
Digitalization also lets users virtually model the production process, creating digital twins that can be used for scenario planning and to help manufacturers more quickly respond to shifts in market demands. For example, a 2020 study by McKinsey found that consumer sentiment has changed significantly since the global pandemic began, shifting many consumers’ emphasis to the basics of securing groceries and healthcare. For manufacturers empowered by mass personalization’s deeper and more methodological approach to capturing and analyzing consumer data, the ability to sense and respond to these shifts was greatly enhanced.
Sensing consumer shifts
When demand does recover, experts predict that it may look very different than it did before the pandemic. The EY Future Consumer Index, for example, predicts that consumer behaviour will be far more value driven, with increased emphasis on sustainability and waste reduction. Similarly, consumers are more likely to take a digital-first approach to shopping, moving away from previously favoured in-store brands. Mass personalization gives manufacturers the flexibility and agility they need to recognize these shifts and transform their business to meet changing behaviours.
The use of advanced production processes – additive manufacturing, for example – also improve a company’s operational resiliency. In a business – and social – environment where severe limitations on the movement of goods and people has become the norm, reducing the length of the supply chain and bringing the point of production closer to the consumer helps reduce the impact of disruptions and improve business continuity.
A business-continuity engine
Successful implementation of these solutions can be a challenge, but the Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud enables manufacturers to transition their business at a pace that suits them. Moving to a fully digitalized manufacturing environment in a flexible, scalable way, empowers manufacturers to respond to the challenges of today while reshaping their business to thrive in the future.
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